As the United States welcomes Pope Francis — an advocate for the humane treatment of refugees — the Obama Administration quietly demonstrates its resolve to treat refugee women and children fleeing severe domestic and sexual abuse more like criminals than victims in need.
On Sept. 18, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it had filed its appeal to a federal court ruling compelling the release of refugee children detained with their mothers in prison-like conditions. In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee called the use of family detention centers a clear violation of an earlier settlement agreement under which officials must make every effort to avoid detaining children.
Tahirih Justice Center is disappointed by the decision to appeal Judge Gee’s final ruling and continue the practice of jailing mothers with their children. These survivors are simply asking for freedom from violence.
The inhumane incarceration of women and child refugees in prison-like settings should stop immediately, and American leaders should ensure that these courageous survivors of violence have access to the medical and legal assistance they need to rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity.
Instead, the Obama Administration continues to take steps in the wrong direction.
Last week, the Administration announced that it would award a five-city contract for social services programs for refugee mothers and children to the GEO Group — the same for-profit company that manages an immigration detention center in Texas. Advocacy groups sought community-based programs as an alternative to detention, arguing that this would provide families with vital support as they pursue their legal claims for refugee protection.
The award of the five-city contract to the same company that profits from jailing women and children is disturbing, and it sends a message that the Administration is more concerned with quickly deporting vulnerable victims of violence than it is with offering refugees their rightful day in court.